DARD minister has ‘begun to realise effect of SFP delays’
DUP MEP Diane Dodds has commented on a week of announcements and upheaval for the Agricultural Minister Michelle O’Neill and her department.
Mrs Dodds said the minister has come under increased pressure from politicians and the farming community over a range of issues, but as the minister begins to take actions, the question being asked is whether it is a case of too little too late.
Mrs Dodds said: “It has certainly been a full and interesting week for our Agriculture Minister, with a decision on tackling TB in wildlife, giving interest payments to farmers who have not received their Single Farm Payment on or after the 1st July, the launch of a consultation to change the standstill period and a flood in Dundonald House.
“I welcome the announcement made by the minister this week in relation to tackling the issue of TB in wildlife and this is a step in the right direction but I do have reservations about the proposed trial. To make a final decision I feel we need greater detail to the effectiveness and cost of such a trial.
“TB is a complex issue and affected by many different factors but all the factors must be addressed including TB in wildlife. It is not a sustainable option to repeatedly slaughter infected farm animals while not addressing the same disease in wildlife. The animals will continue to be re-infected and the cycle will continue, no country in the world has eradicated TB without addressing the issue of TB in the wildlife population. I believe this change in direction has come as a result of political pressure from the DUP through the Agriculture Committee and through pushing the issue with the minister and her officials,” added Mrs Dodds.
“For those who have been awaiting their Single Farm Payment for up to seven months, this weeks’ announcement by the minister to grant interest payments to farmers will be of little benefit but may show the minister is beginning to take the matter seriously.
“In recent correspondence received from the minister almost 96% of the 37,860 SFP claims for last year have been paid out, accounting for some £256.5 million. As at the 6 June, a total of 1574 claims had still to be completed. These include 799 cases where inspection findings need to be applied to the claim and 775 other cases that cannot be paid for a variety of reasons. In 2011, the average length of time from the first date of inspection until payment was authorised was six months. Given the importance of the SFP to farmers and the fact that in July we have around 1300 payments to make I think is an unacceptable position to be in. I know DARD have taken steps to speed up the payment and inspection process for this year and I do intend over the coming months to monitor this progress myself. I also understand that land eligibility checks commenced on the 21st May 2012 which is much earlier than last year, this is a welcomed improvement but progress must continue.
“Last week due to the heavy downpours, which the province had to endure, the basement of Dundonald House flooded causing a major electrical fault which affected a large proportion of the Stormont Estate. Over 800 staff had to be relocated to other government buildings and it is hoped normal service should be resumed shortly. For the industry this means little, but the flood affected the APHIS system which is vital for the movement of animals to market and also to slaughter houses. If this problem had taken any longer to fix it would have had a crippling effect on farmers and indeed processors who have supermarket orders to fill. This is one instance when a contingency plan really did come into effect for the benefit of the industry.”
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Weather for Belfast
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 13 C
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Temperature: 8 C to 14 C
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